By Emil Danielyan
A high-ranking delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) met with President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday at the end of a two-day visit to Yerevan that focused on the Armenian government’s efforts to cope with the global economic crisis.
The Armenian presidential press service said Sarkisian and members of the mission headed by Age Bakker, executive director of the IMF, discussed Armenia’s continued cooperation with the fund “in the conditions of the crisis.”
“The president reaffirmed the authorities’ readiness to take active and practical steps to mitigate the impact of the global financial-economic crisis on our economy,” it said in a statement. No other details were reported.
Bakker and other IMF officials accompanying him met with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian on Tuesday. A government statement said they discussed a draft “memorandum on financial and economic policies” that will presumably serve as a basis for further IMF assistance to Armenia. The statement did not elaborate on the document, saying only that two sides are in “overall agreement” on its content and need to work out details.
The IMF has repeatedly praised Armenia’s macroeconomic performance and economic policies pursued by successive governments in Yerevan over the past decade. Its governing board decided last November to provide the country with $14 million in fresh loans designed to support the implementation of a new mid-term economic program approved by the Armenian government in late October.
“The worsened global macroeconomic outlook has increased uncertainty, but Armenia is in a strong position to withstand the impact of the global economic downturn,” the IMF’s deputy managing director, Murilo Portugal, said in a November statement.
A spokeswoman for the Armenian government, Meri Harutiunian, on Wednesday did not deny that Yerevan is now seeking additional IMF funding for its efforts to minimize the fallout from the global economic slump. “The government has been negotiating with various international institutions, including the IMF, to attract financial resources for its anti-crisis measures,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL.
External assistance is vital for the success of those measures, which include increased public spending on job-creating infrastructure projects as well as the provision of cheap credit to small and medium-sized businesses. The World Bank announced late last month that it will more than double lending to Armenia to at least $525 million in the next four years. The government also expects to obtain a $500 million loan from Russia in the coming weeks.